"Care for Kids"

editorial (

May 22

) really struck home. The fact is, quality child care is expensive and subsidy reimbursement rates don't come close to paying for it.

We see this problem from all sides - as one of four Philadelphia intermediary agencies that process child-care subsidy applications and help families find quality child care, as the manager of the Keystone Stars Quality Child Care initiative in this region and as a provider of quality child care in three low-income city neighborhoods.

If we're going to reap the long-term benefits of investing in quality care, then we have to address a fundamental problem in the current system.

A large percentage of subsidy payments go to unregulated providers - the so-called "family and neighbor care." So simply reducing the waiting list for subsidy won't yield the desired social benefit in terms of later educational achievement.

We need to expand the availability of subsidy for quality providers. This is a two-fold process: increase subsidy payments to higher quality providers, and prioritize quality child care in the subsidy system.

The state began paying quality providers a higher rate last year - a good first step - and we need to do more. The real gains will come when we prioritize subsidies for families who enroll their children in high quality programs.

This would be relatively easy to implement - the subsidy agencies would have an added pot of money for quality providers with a priority for state funding. This would create two lists, a short or no wait for quality programs and a longer one for unregulated care.

Arlene Bell, CEO/President

Caring People Alliance